A Good Marriage (2014)
Director(s): Peter Askin
Writer(s): Stephen King (short story and screenplay)
Starring: Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia, Stephen Lang
When I’m in the mood for a good suspenseful thriller, the element I enjoy the most is a slow, methodical burn. The suspenseful thriller is the sub-genre of the horror world which one could argue is a separate category on its own. I’ve always seen suspenseful thrillers as an extension of horror movies because for me, they share the same appreciation for the entertainment value that always surrounds the macabre tone of death. What makes suspenseful thrillers interesting to me, is how they are the reciprocal of most straight forward horror movies. Let me explain… From what you’ve seen in most of the articles I’ve written so far in this FEARtastic journey of ours, my interest in the characters that show up in the horror flicks are always secondary. My love for horror movies can usually be broken down to who is the killer, how are they killing and how clever is the plot. It’s pretty rare that I gush about the protagonist of the story; for the most part they are merely the vehicle and/or sacrifice for me to enter the world of entertaining horror. Frankly, most of the time, these are boring characters that get in the way of me actually enjoying myself and that’s what makes suspenseful thrillers so fascinating.
One would think that the pain that these human characters inflict upon me, on most horror movie viewings, would make me rather jaded every time I pop in suspenseful thrillers, that usually only focuses on humans, but that’s what makes these movies so enjoyable; when done correctly, the characters from a suspenseful thriller can provide you with such anxiety, you feel handicapped from the anticipation to see what will happen next. In successful suspense thrillers, the characters are what make the movie work; the protagonist must be interesting enough so that you DON’T want them to get caught when they’re sneaking around finding the horrifying truth. Hitchcock was the MASTER of the slow burn, his most famous movie, Psycho, was the absolute standard when it came to the suspense thriller. Every moment you are clinging to the screen, knowing the protagonists were close to the truth and that’s when Hitchcock takes all that tension and slaps you in the face with a twist. Whether they be a person of the law sneaking their way to the truth, or a loved one that stumbles upon it accidentally (like the flick that I’ll get to…eventually), these movies provide that delayed gratification that is a different kind pleasure from the horror realm.
I was excited to check out any movie that’s based off a Stephen King story. Although I’m quite a fan of his anthology books (Night Shift, Skeleton Crew, etc.) which follows my trend in liking my horror movies in quick short blasts of gory fun, I’ve also enjoyed full length films based on his movies (Click to read about my love for the movie IT ). Stephen King has a pretty good track record when it comes to his stories making onto the big screen but what made me especially excited to see this film is how long it has been since I’ve seen a solid suspense thriller in the first place. I read the synopsis and I must admit that the plot of finding out your loved one is a killer isn’t breaking molds anytime soon. What made me jump right into the movie however, is the casting of the doomed couple. The casting of the seasoned Joan Allen as the wife who finds out her husband is a serial killer was perfect. She’s perfected the role of a strong woman in horrible situations (i.e. Face/Off, Pleasantville, Bourne Flicks, etc.) and I was curious to see how a married couple with so many years under their belt would handle a homicidal situation.
The casting of Anthony LaPaglia as the husband with a horrible secret was just perfect for me, which added more reason to catch this flick, he’s always had a demeanor to me that just screamed, “I’m a really nice guy but there’s probably something dangerous about me.” His charm is what made this movie really work for me; throughout the movie he does a great job in convincing the audience that he is a perfect father and husband. Once he hooks you in, the fact you find out he’s a serial killer makes it even more entertaining. One of the best scenes in the movie is the calm delivery of the reveal to his wife about his homicidal tendencies. It is well thought out, meticulous in detail and dare I say, practical? There’s a part of you that begins to think that maybe, JUST maybe you can turn your head the other way if you had a loved one that happen to love killing other people. Both seasoned actors do a fantastic job in keeping the audience engaged with how far someone can go to make things work for the sake of family, no matter the cost of morality. The slow burn can only work with the right ingredients and the actors/characters behind A Good Marriage created quite the stir of peppers in my horror loving stomach…okay, I have a hankering for Mexican food now, SEE YA folks!
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.